Why free RDP servers aren’t worth it

Sometimes, the limitations and frustrations of a free service outweigh the benefits to your wallet. We think this is the case with free RDP servers.

When purchasing pretty much anything, it’s always tempting to get the free version if it’s available. This is why free-to-play games are so popular, why the majority of apps on your phone are free, why ad-funded internet services remain dominant, etc. Sometimes, however, the limitations and frustrations of a free service outweigh the benefits to your wallet. We think this is the case with free RDP servers.

Take it from us – hosting and maintaining a server infrastructure is not cheap.  You have to wonder, then – what are you giving up to make it worth the free provider’s time? Usually, more than you bargained for.

Intentionally bad experiences

Usually, genuine free RDP providers are offering a “free-tier” below their existing services. It is in their best interests to make sure that you’ll have to upgrade from this free tier at some point. Otherwise, you’ll just be cutting into their profits.

Usually, this comes in the form of an incredibly slow experience, with specs that do not even meet Windows’ minimum requirements at the resolution you’ll want to be running it at. This makes it pretty much useless once you start to factor in the additional resources of running an application or webserver.

Another tactic is to severely limit the amount of traffic a user can have to their server and then lock them out when they hit the cap unless they pay more. This cap is often magically reached even when the user does not reach the requirements or gets exceeded by illegitimate bot activity. After putting in all the hard work to build up their service, most users fold and pay, and get worse service than they otherwise would have for the price.

Even when a free provider is not shady about the specs, you can’t expect the same level of support as a paying customer. Chances are, you’ll experience frequent downtime, poor security, and any number of other issues as a result.

Privacy

The age old saying is that if you aren’t paying for the product, you are the product. There are some exceptions to this rule, but free RDP servers are not one of them. Some ‘free’ sites don’t provide servers at all, instead just take your information and sell it on. If you do go for a free RDP server, make sure it’s from a known entity. More nefariously, some companies may deliver you the server but spy on your activity and pass that on. They may not even say they’re doing it in their privacy policy.

Free trials

A lot of ‘free’ RDP servers are just free trials. You get a limited amount of free credit or time until your server expires and you’re forced to pay. And this is fine – if you’re just looking to test to the service. However, you’ll find that some providers market themselves as free and don’t tell you that just means ‘free trial’ until you complete the sign up process. This is just frustrating and a waste of your time.

Alternatives to free RDP servers

Even the cheapest RDP server is going to do you better than a ‘free’ one. We aren’t just acting in our own self-interest when we say it’s worth paying if you can.

If you can’t, however, any old Windows PC you have lying around will probably do a better job. You can set it up as a server and run it on your local connection. If you don’t, a $35 Raspberry Pi 4 will serve you much better than a sub 1GB RAM free server with less than a 1 GHz of processing power.

Of course, while your local connection will probably be fine to host a media server or a game server for a few friends, it’s unlikely to work well at scale. A paid provider will net you that coveted 1gbps connection and won’t be affected by whatever else you’re doing on your network.